You're tough and strong, but that doesn't mean you're not feminine, too. Don't you want your race day apparel to encompass all of the characteristics that make you an athlete? Kristin Mayer, the owner and designer behind Betty Designs, never wanted to settle for masculine, "seen it before" apparel, so she started making her own stand-out race kits to help her "chick" competitors with flare. What started as a personal hobby quickly spread by word of mouth and became its own, hot brand. So we had to know... how'd Kristin come up with her edgy Betty Designs and how does she stick to her guns when it comes to creating the hottest cycling, running and triathlon clothing for women? We turned to Mayer herself to find out...
Girls Gone Sporty (GGS): Can you tell me a little about where you're from and how that's played a factor in your design?
Kristin Mayer (KM): I grew up on the East Coast outside of Boston before migrating west to attend USC. Living in Southern California changed my life. I felt like I needed to get away from the East Coast and I found my “place” in California. It was also during my time at USC that I majored in fine arts and got more into the design side of things.
GGS: You’re a long-time triathlete. What got you into the sport and what helps you stay motivated to keep competing?
KM: I actually fell into the sport when I dated various guys after college. One boyfriend helped me get a bike. Another encouraged me to start competing. They kept pushing me to try different things, and I eventually decided to sign up for a sprint triathlon. I hadn’t swum open water before, and I thought I was going to die, but that experience got me hooked.
I honestly never thought that I’d still be competing and improving well into my mid 40s, but that’s what’s kept me motivated. I still get out there. I love putting that race number on and seeing what I’m made of on the day of the race.
GGS: So how exactly did you get into graphic design and designing race kits?
KM: I always knew I wanted to do something art-related, but while I was in school I didn’t really know what graphic design was. I ended up getting an internship at LA Gear, right around the time when they were really, really hot. They then hired me straight out of school and I worked in every area possible, from the ad department to the footwear department. This was when everything was done by hand. I learned a lot about colors and textiles and apparel development.
After that I decided to try product marketing, which I didn’t like as much. People were starting to do everything on computers, so I went back to school to learn that side of things.
It was in 1996, due to my connections in the triathlon world, that I had the opportunity to start freelancing as a graphic designer for various companies and triathletes. I’ve been freelancing ever since and I’m very fortunate to be in the triathlon community, having the opportunity to marry my hobby with my design passion.
I was first asked to start doing custom clothing design for a few of the top triathletes in the late ‘90s. The timing was interesting: because of my graphic design background and my work in the fashion industry, I had the resources to work in textiles. Now, the resources are out there, so anyone can do whatever they want, but back then, it was a little different. I always wanted to look different on the race course, so I started designing my own kits to stand out. I would match my custom kits to my helmets. Business grew by word of mouth, so I always had this “clothing thing” on the side, in addition to the graphic design work I was doing.
Until 2010, clothing design remained a side business. In 2010, my husband and I split up, and I kind of panicked because I wasn’t sure how to support myself and my son with just my freelance work. I didn’t want to take another job – I wanted to keep freelancing, so I decided to try to sell my racing kits online. Betty Designs was launched in October 2010. Its logo came about based on what my skull fetish represents to me - toughen up, suck it up – a picture of women in sport. Women should be strong and beautiful, that’s why the logo merges the skull and the butterfly.
GGS: Is there anything that inspires your design? Do you have any fresh, upcoming designs in the works?
KM: I get a lot of inspiration from surf culture. I love the ocean, the California lifestyle... I’ve had a bikini fetish forever. I always design with bright hues. In keeping with femininity, I choose typography script that’s beautiful and match it with hard-edged design. I like curvy lines and swirls, things that look feminine without being so blatant. I hate that so much of the triathlon stuff on the market looks so masculine. I use pink more than other companies because a lot of women still like pink! The Betty Cycling Kit that’s head-to-toe pink is very popular. I went to factory stores and found out no one else is doing a bright pink kit from head-to-toe, but I found that women of all sizes just think it’s really fun; plus, it’s really noticeable on the road!
I have a tattoo-inspired bikini right now, and I’ve decided to do a cycling kit that has a tattoo motif as well. The left side of the shorts have a very personal graphic on the side in bright colors – kind of like the idea of a “full sleeve” tattoo in color.
I try to design things that are different from what’s already out there. Some of the other fun, new items that are currently in production are really fun swimsuits: shimmery silver fabrics, Brazilian athletic bikini cuts. I’m just trying to be a little different and create apparel with a little flash, a little bling. We’re still girls and we want to look cute!
GGS: What else should readers know about your athletic apparel?
KM: When it comes to the apparel itself, I’m working with existing patterns, so my products are in the mid- to upper-end in terms of grippers on cycling shorts and other details. Ultimately, my apparel is all about having fun, making it different and making it pop. The Betty Cycling Kit is my favorite design because it’s overtly feminine and fun.
Business is growing. It’s been two years since Betty Designs launched, and the original goal was to sell one thing a day. And here I am, making it successful! I know my designs aren’t for everyone. People either love what I’m doing or don’t like it at all, but that’s okay – that’s where I want to be. If you’re somewhere in the middle, you’re not really standing out.
GGS: When you’re not competing or working, how do you spend your free time?
KM: I spend it with my 10 year old son, Gavyn. We do a lot of trips together. I’ve exposed him to mountain biking, snowboarding, camping. We went to Utah and did a cycling event together. We just make a point of getting out of the house and doing stuff together, even if it’s just going down to the Starbucks. This last summer we were in the water a ton, going boogie boarding, paddleboarding and more.